Missed Millions

July 31st, 2017 | No Comments »

Blog By Sage

We’ve all seen them! With over 200 million units sold in a matter of months, they’re everywhere. They’re so popular, in fact, that recently different versions of this must-have toy occupied all 20 spots on Amazon’s best-selling toys and games list. Of course, it’s the Fidget Spinner. The worldwide phenomenon that doesn’t do anything more than spin between your fingers. With such undisputable success, the inventor must be worth millions! Right?

Meet Catherine Hettinger, by most accounts, the original mastermind behind the Fidget Spinner. In the 90’s she created a spinning toy, and held a patent on it for 8 years. Her brief marketing efforts led her to Hasbro, one of the world’s largest toy manufacturers. After reviewing her spinning toy, Hasbro, in what can only be described as a huge blunder, passed. It’s speculated, that this “No” deflated Catherine’s commitment to her invention. Just a short time later, she didn’t pay the $400 maintenance fee on her patent. Her patent was abandon, her toy was no longer protected and everyone could make it, meaning Catherine didn’t earn a dime!

I love Fun with Numbers, so let’s do a little math. For simplicity, we’ll say the average Fidget Spinner retails for $5.00 (most of them sell for a lot more), and over 200,000,000 units have been sold. That’s equals at least $1 billion in retail sales, or roughly $500 million in wholesale revenue. Wholesale is important; licensing agreement royalties are calculated from wholesale. Let’s say that royalty is just 5%. $500,000,000 X 5% = $25,000,000. Now, there’s no guarantee Catherine would have made that much money, but the minute she let her patent expire she guaranteed she’d never collect a royalty on her invention.

How popular is this toy? Allen Ashkenazie, executive vice president of Almar Sales, a supplier of toys to Wal-Mart and Toys ‘R’ Us, told the Guardian, “The market demand of speed and velocity surpasses any product that we’ve seen in our 50-year history.” Ashkenazie continued, “The Fidget Spinners are a consumer craze for children, and with parental support — nowadays anything physical that’ll keep them away from their obsession with tech.”

There’s lessons to be learned from Catherine’s plight. First, patents are the vehicle that allow an independent inventor to collect royalties on their invention. A patent doesn’t guarantee success, but without it royalties are just a dream. Second, persistence is the key. Every “no” you hear, puts you closer to a “yes.” Today, Julie Roberts is in an international superstar but 30 years ago she was an actress auditioning for parts. She heard no, after no, after no but she kept trying until she finally landed Mystic Pizza, then Pretty Woman, and the rest as they say is history. Persistence pays off, and if you’re not committed to your product, no else will be. Finally, there’s no replacement for a loyal team of professionals that can guide you and your invention through the patenting, marketing, and deal-making challenges ahead. The right assistance can make all the difference in the world! Who was Catherine turning to for advice?

Some people discredit Ms. Hettinger as the true inventor because her patent drawings don’t resemble modern Fidget Spinners. However, today’s airplanes don’t look like that of Wilbur and Orville Wright. And any decent royalty negotiator would have ensured that variations, improvements and modifications of her Spinning Toy were all covered in the licensing agreement.

Don’t end up like Catherine. If you have an idea, invention or an improvement to an existing product you can depend on Inventor Process to provide the assistance you can count on. Our team of experts can help you succeed with your invention! Contact us today.

Inventor Process, Inc. is a professional consulting firm that assists inventors with their business development needs. We can help at every phase of the invention process. We couple experience, expertise and knowledge with honesty, integrity and ethics.

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